Why I Dread My Son's Fifth Birthday

Do you ever see a teenager and just freak out because … how? How could this little person that still hasn’t mastered tying his shoes and thinks L-M-N-O-P is one giant, run together, super letter, morph into an angst-ridden teenager, proudly sporting scant facial hair while loitering around the food court of the mall? 

Anders’ fifth birthday is this month and I’m feeling a little down about it. There’s something about the age of five that feels different than all the years before it. Perhaps it is because five is the age he will be when he enters kindergarten or because a quick exercise in mental math brought about the realization that we are more than a quarter done with raising him. Well, if one considers their job complete when their child reaches the age of 18, which I don’t, but I’m sure he’ll live to argue the point with me once he hits 16 or so.

He seems to need me a little less each day. He still sits in my lap, only now his feet bang against my shins where previously his entire body fit snugly in the crook of my arm. The morning goodbyes are less painful and drawn out (for him). A one-armed hug wrought with obligation and he’s off to join his playmates. Off to exist comfortably in a world I’m not a part of. He is developing a sense of self, an identity different from the babyhood I long to associate him with.

It is gut-wrenching.

It is one of the oddest and most unexpected things about parenthood for me — the way I celebrate and mourn my son’s milestones all at once. The hand I use to urge him forward is the same that longs to hold him back.

I have no doubt that his fifth birthday will be one of the happiest and saddest days of my life to date. My excitement for that day is rivaled only by my dread.  So many things about motherhood are bittersweet.

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